Monday, February 8, 2010

Review > Hammersmith show by the UK's Telegraph

Todd Rundgren at the Hammersmith Apollo, review
The Todd-heads, at least, were not disappointed by this meticulously planned show. Rating: * * *

By Tim Burrows
Published: 12:50PM GMT 08 Feb 2010

Crowd-pleasing stuff: Todd Rundgren at the Hammersmith Apollo Photo: JOHN RAHIM
Around the time of his 1973 album A Wizard, a True Star, Todd Rundgren was all set for superstardom. He dated the supermodel Bebe Buell, and frequented the New York hangout Max’s Kansas City, where he met the New York Dolls, whose debut album he produced, and Patti Smith, who wrote the album’s sleeve notes.

Yet the outlandish experimentation of AWATS might have been what prevented Rundgren becoming the American Bowie. While not a small fish by any means, Rundgren never hit those heights. Yet today he still commands an obsessive global following of fans, known as “Todd-heads”.

For them he ensured this Hammersmith show, in which the whole of AWATS was played live for the first time since the Seventies, was a meticulously planned affair. His white-tuxedoed six-piece band, didn’t miss a time-signature change. Yet, while the music was as faithful to the LP as possible, the most thought-out aspect of the show was his outfits.

This was crowd-pleasing stuff – Liberace meets Lady Gaga — with Rundgren jogging back and forth to change into sparkling spandex, a yellow tuxedo, or the glittering indigo robe he threw on before performing a quite touching rendition of I Don’t Want to Tie You Down.

AWATS is still a gorgeous fusion of styles that follows its own dream-logic. Yet here its effervescence was squeezed into a rigorous routine that resembled a West End musical.

Rundgren had started the set in a space suit for the cosmic International Feel. For Hungry For Love, he came out sporting a chef’s outfit, throwing sweets into the audience from his apron like a pantomime character. For those who adored the album for its feeling of limitless possibilities, the stream of consciousness had become an irritating fairground ride.

In recent years, the album has become a major influence on groups such as Daft Punk and Hot Chip, and any crate-digging hip-hop DJ worth his salt. As if stood in opposition to such hip appropriation, some Todd-heads had painted their faces and wore jackets covered in DIY messages to their hero.

As the set approached the finale, Rundgren wore his most risqué outfit of the night, a gold dress with a gap to air his small belly. As he span in a circle, his dress pluming furiously as he played a lengthy guitar solo, one Todd-head in the audience, who had danced evangelically throughout, was reaching a transformative state. In Todd they still trust.

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